Geoffrey Rush stars as Albert Einstein in National Geographic’s ‘Genius’
Fresh from her turn in the controversial drama Apple Tree Yard, in which she played a scientist who has a steamy affair with a stranger, with disastrous consequences, Emily Watson returns to the screen in a somewhat less racy but equally conflicted role this month, playing a scientist’s wife – Albert Einstein’s to be precise.
She was in Prague filming Genius, the ten-part drama about the Nobel Prize-winner, when Apple Tree Yard was broadcast here in January and February – much to her relief.
‘It was great making Apple Tree Yard but when I saw all the reaction online I did think, “Oh my God!”‘ she laughs.
‘I was nervous about the sex at first, I knew some people would disapprove of a middle-aged woman having an exciting affair, but I’m glad I did it.
‘I was surprised it became such a big deal.
It was watercooler-moment TV and I haven’t really done anything like that before.’
She’s back on more familiar territory in Genius, playing a dowdier character in the shape of Elsa Einstein. ‘She and Albert had a very complicated relationship,’ Emily says.
‘They were first cousins and by the end of the story they’re a bit like brother and sister.
They were always at loggerheads but they were very close. She created a world where he could exist, where he could just be Einstein. She protected him.’
Genius is the first scripted drama made by the National Geographic channel and it’s attracted a starry cast, with Australian Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush playing Einstein, Robert Lindsay as his father and Johnny Flynn, half-brother of fellow actor Jerome Flynn, as the young Albert.
The aim of the show, produced by another Oscar-winner, Ron Howard, is to reveal the man behind the mind and the pivotal role he played in world history.
Emily Watson plays Elsa Einstein, the actress describes the relationship between Albert and his wife as ‘very complicated’
‘leave application for fever in school most people Einstein is that scientist with all the hair that looks like an atomic bomb going off,’ says Geoffrey Rush.
‘But there were so many parts of his life that were a complete revelation to me.’
The show is certainly a very modern look at Einstein. When we first meet him he’s having extra-marital sex with his secretary against a blackboard covered with mathematical equations.
‘It’s a great way to introduce Einstein and really very funny,’ says Emily.
‘The secretary ends up with all these chalk equations on the back of her dress and they have to dust them off.’